Premier: China targets 8% GDP growth in 2008 2008-03-05 10:10:33   Print

Special Report: NPC, CPPCC Annual Sessions 2008        

    BEIJING, March 5 (Xinhua) -- China has geared down its economic growth to eight percent this year after five consecutive years of double-digit GDP growth, Premier Wen Jiabao said on Wednesday.

    "On the basis of improving the economic structure, productivity, energy efficiency and environmental protection, the GDP should grow by about eight percent," Wen said in his government work report to the First Session of the 11th National People's Congress opening here on Wednesday.

    This is the fourth year that China has fixed its GDP growth target at 8 percent, which shows the central government is ready to maintain stable development, said Beijing-based economist Wang Xiaoguang.

    "This is also a clear message to local governments: that they should focus their attention on the quality, rather than pace, of development," he said in an interview with Xinhua.

    Wang warned China should avoid major ups and downs in economic growth, given the potential disturbances from the domestic and international markets.

    While new governments in Chinese provinces and regions were likely to seek faster economic growth and expand investment in their first year in office, uncertainties and potential risks of the world economy could also affect China, he said.

    "The impact of the U.S. slowdown on China's exports was still unclear, and China's economy faces more internal, rather than external, challenges," said Wang.

    Several economists told Xinhua that this year's GDP growth would be around 10 percent, "mildly" down from last year's 11.4 percent.

    "The targeted eight percent is more a guide for macro regulation than a concrete goal," said Li Deshui, a member of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. "It doesn't mean the growth rate will really plunge that much."

    Li, former head of the National Bureau of Statistics, described this year's growth target as "scientific" and "sustainable".

    The key to China's development was to protect the environment, employ resources in a rational way, improve economic efficiency and transform pattern of development, he said. "We should maintain fast growth on this basis."

    The World Bank forecast last month that China's 2008 GDP would grow by 9.6 percent this year, down from its earlier prediction of10.8 percent.

    But Chief Economist Yao Jingyuan of the National Bureau of Statistics said it was not altogether a bad thing for the economic development to slow down. "It will provide a much-needed opportunity to readjust the economic structure and transform the growth pattern."

    Last year, the country's gross domestic product (GDP) grew 11.4percent year-on-year to 24.6619 trillion yuan (3.43 trillion U.S. dollars), but the risks of spiraling inflation and economic overheating were also rising.

    In 2007, China's consumer price index (CPI), the main gauge of inflation, rose 4.8 percent year-on-year, well above the three percent target.

    In January this year, the monthly CPI rose by 7.1 percent, a result of price increases during the Chinese Lunar New Year and the severest winter weather attacking central, southern and eastern China in five decades.

    Against the backdrop of the CPI rises, the winter weather disaster that caused a loss of at least 111.1 billion yuan (15.43 billion U.S. dollars) and the subprime crisis and soaring oil prices on the international market, analysts say China's economy faces "unprecedented" challenges this year.

    In view of the current domestic and international economic situation, Wen said China would follow a "prudent fiscal policy and a tight monetary policy" this year to accomplish the tasks for macroeconomic regulation.

    The People's Bank of China, the central bank, has said it will keep the tight monetary policy unchanged to rein in growing inflation.

    The central bank has taken a series of measures such as raising the reserve requirement ratio 11 times and the benchmark interest rates six times since last year to absorb excess liquidity and the measures have played a positive role in slowing down the inflation growth.

Editor: Jiang Yuxia
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